Classical Haiku: George Gershwin
A white spat in each
world: the glitz of Hollywood
and Carnegie Hall
The show-tune din of Tin Pan Alley was mother’s milk for George Gershwin and his brother, Ira. But George Gershwin also saw – and created – a bright future in the concert hall for the jazz of his day.
Fueled in no small part by the zeal of jazz band leader Paul Whiteman to seat jazz and classical music shoulder to shoulder, Gershwin infused his works for the concert hall with the riffs of the jazz club.
Rhapsody in Blue, arguably Gershwin’s most famous work (commissioned by Whiteman), is a delicious white-tie affair that blends the classical piano concerto with the yellow-cab diction of a Manhattan jazz band.
And in An American in Paris, composed a few years later while Gershwin was in the then-jazz capital of Europe, one’s croissants have distinct overtones of the jazz club’s whiskey and gin.
With a finger so firmly on the pulse of his times as Gershwin’s was, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came knocking on his door. An American in Paris inspired the much later MGM film of the same name.
But even before that, in 1929, the Gershwin brothers were commissioned to write music for the film Delicious, and through the years the two made any number of contributions to what we now call the Great American Songbook.
The fluid corridor Gershwin traveled between classical and popular music might cause us to lament the seemingly widening gap between these two worlds today.
Today’s Classical Haiku is devoted to George Gershwin, whose music reminds us that music lives not in concert halls or honky tonks, but in our souls.